From Français to Field Placement

Posted on October 07,2013 by aliatmspp

Hello! I’m Ali, and I’m a first-year Clinical PsyD student at MSPP. I grew up a dozen miles or so from MSPP’s campus. Actually, my grandparents used to live within a ten minutes’ walk from Wells Avenue. I went to Amherst College for undergrad, where I majored in two departments that are not widely regarded as traditional foundations for a career in psychology: French and Political Science. Eager to start doing “meaningful” work after graduation, I took one of the first jobs I came across, which was working as a teaching assistant at a residential treatment center. At the time, I had no idea what a “residential treatment center” really was, whom it was intended to serve, and what the academic goals would be for these students. But the combination of kids, counseling, and teaching seemed like a good one.

I was there for a short time in a variety of roles, from educational advocate to frequent participant in crisis management. However, the one-on-one and group teaching moments made me curious about teaching. There was a school nearby that needed a French teacher to cover for one semester. It was a match made in online job posting heaven. That one semester of teaching turned into eleven semesters; I taught languages for five and a half years, teaching every grade from first to eighth – except for second. While teaching, I also had the opportunity to coach, to mentor and to advise students. And I was fortunate to learn a lot about the ABC Family television line-up and songs from the Top 40. All the while, I found the most fulfilling aspects of my job to be getting to know my students as people outside of their French personae (each student picked a new francophone name like Fatima, Jacques, or Boubacar) and helping them navigate the bumpy terrain of middle school life.

Through my own journey, I ended up at MSPP’s orientation for Clinical PsyD students this past August. As a student who wasn’t coming directly out of undergrad, I was pretty anxious about what my new life would be like. Back to school time for me had been time for cleaning and organizing my classroom; now it was about reading through syllabi and ordering textbooks. What would it be like as a student again? Would I be able to connect with people who may not have been spending their days with middle school students, busting out J. Biebs’ gems and lunching with 12-year olds on the regular? Would I bring a briefcase or a messenger bag to classes, or would I take my cues from my former middle school students and procure a rolling backpack? And what about my practicum? What would that be like?

Luckily, my anxiety was quelled as I was greeted by genuinely welcoming staff members at MSPP and an eager student body ready to jump into the year. Within weeks, I knew that this decision was the right one for me. Honestly, I look forward to days when I’m on campus. I’ve enjoyed getting to know new people, from fellow students to the instructors who are genuinely supportive and invested in our success as professionals and, on a more human level, in our growth as individuals. And I, like many other students at MSPP, consider myself lucky to be a part of this unique community. Oh, and I went with the messenger bag, just to get that one out of the way now. So here’s to a great new beginning!